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Commentary & Analysis

68 Great Wide-Format Opportunities (and One Donut)

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a major printing trade show in Chicago—you may have been there as well. A quick take on the show is that it was well-executed and well-attended, but smaller than we’ve come to think the quadrennial Print event should be.

By Dan Marx
Published: September 30, 2013

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a major printing trade show in Chicago—you may have been there as well. A quick take on the show is that it was well-executed and well-attended, but smaller than we’ve come to think the quadrennial Print event should be. While the trip was worth my time, I felt that from my wide-format point of view, it lacked the breadth and variety needed by any print professional seeking full immersion in the wide-format digital arena. On the whole, my Print experience left me craving a donut. But more about that later…

Have Your Eyes Opened

Continuing the food metaphor, let’s switch over to enchiladas—specifically the big “wide-format” enchilada, SGIA’s annual SGIA Expo, which this year will take place in Orlando, October 23–25. It is an event that has the breadth and variety that was missing in Chicago. If you’ve never been to the SGIA Expo, you owe it to yourself and the future of your business to go and take advantage of three days of intensive education, strong networking, and an astounding variety of technologies and products. As I’ve discussed in earlier WhatTheyThink posts, wide-format inkjet is an ascendant technology, meaning it is still growing, still on the rise, ripe with opportunity, still has space for surprising innovation, and provides strong footholds for those seeking to climb in today’s print industry.

SGIA’s Orlando event will have numerous educational opportunities—68 of them to be exact, and many of them free—for those companies looking to enter wide-format digital, or expand what they do in this area, by offering free educational content in a series of “Zones” on the Expo floor. These sales-free, special-interest areas will address color management and workflow for wide-format, digital textile printing, and graphics installation tools and techniques. Further, the Expo offers in-depth paid seminars, more than 500 exhibiting companies and well more than 15,000 imaging professionals seeking strong opportunities. If you do wide-format—or intend to enter this area—and you don’t visit this year’s SGIA Expo, you’re missing out.

SGIA Expo Ticketed Seminars

These session have the information you need to take your company to the next level. SGIA’s pro-level educational sessions offer a the perfect mix of topics to meet the needs of your business. Customize your education line-up or choose from one of SGIA’s educational tracks tailored for your imaging community.

Color Management and Workflow Solutions Zone (Booth #440)

In the free sessions here, you can learn about color management tools and techniques, as well as RIP technologies, quality assurance, color certification and more. You can even “Ask the Color Expert” if you’re looking for personal insight on a project.

Digital Textile Printing Zone (Booth #2080)

Learn about technical and design requirements, recommended workflows, color management tips, finishing techniques, and recommended best practices for a variety of ink and fabric combinations. You can also see digital printing technologies in action, and meet students and faculty members from the Textile Design Program at Philadelphia University’s School of Design and Engineering.

PDAA Graphics Application Zone (Booth #1240)

The PDAA Zone, presented by proficiency-tested professionals who install pressure-sensitive materials to walls, glass, vehicles and more, is entirely interactive. Highlights include hands-on education, where you get out of your seat and grab a squeegee, live demonstrations and informative presentations  Plus, you’ll have  the ability to talk one-on-one with certified graphics installers.

About That Donut…

So, back to that donut (which I was able to resist, fortunately). What was most interesting to me in Chicago was the realization that the commercial printing industry today is like a donut. Picture this: Offset lithography was the heart of that that industry segment, and a number of other technologies that either worked in conjunction with or complemented offset were positioned around offset’s periphery. Increasingly, however, offset lithography—the core of the commercial print industry—is falling away, leaving the technologies on the periphery to fill the void (or donut hole). Wide-format is one of the most interesting technologies on the commercial printing periphery, along with others. The result, at least in my opinion, is that the commercial print segment is in flux, and is currently unfocused, grasping for what it will become.

The whole print industry—all segments included—is in a constant state of redefinition, and whether companies are producing newspapers, direct mail or vehicle wraps, the future path is uncertain. One question many printers should ask themselves today (and perhaps every day, forever) is, “Is my company what my customers or potential customers need it to be?” In many cases, to answer this question positively will require education, research, and careful choices. Whatever you choice for an industry event, I urge you to select the one that speaks to your strongest needs. See you in Orlando!

It’s the Marketplace

As the industry organization for wide-format printing, it is a primary goal of SGIA’s to create the best, broadest and most inclusive marketplace for the wide-format segment, and to connect printing companies with the information, technologies, materials and skills they need to succeed. The SGIA Expo is just four weeks away, but that’s plenty of time for you to register, book your travel and pack a short-sleeve shirt for the trip to sunny Orlando. In fact, SGIA and WhatTheyThink have teamed up to offer a free Expo pass and one free seminar ticket to anyone who registers for the SGIA Expo using this special link

Dan Marx is the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association's Vice President-Markets & Technologies. With SGIA, he works to raise awareness of the specialty graphics industry, and helps printers and their customers identify and adopt new technologies and access lucrative market areas. In his more than 20 years at SGIA, he has authored numerous articles for industry publications worldwide, presented at a variety of industry events, and served as an enthusiastic ambassador for innovative imaging technologies. He can be reached at dan@sgia.org.


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Wide Format Editor

Richard Romano

Richard Romano, Section Editor/Senior Analyst
Richard has written about communication, graphics hardware and software trends for the past 15 years.

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